Challenging the mirror metaphor

After participating today in a workshop at the Religion Communication Congress 2010 today, I feel the need to update a previous post I made, which discusses the metaphor of the news media as a “mirror of the world.”

Here is what I wrote before about what the mirror metaphor suggests:

that “media are the very part of social reality that we can see (the reflection in the mirror) …. media are not simply floating above or outside their communities. In fact, they are more than just shaped by society; shaping them is the very process of negotiating meaning of our social reality.”

This afternoon, Sarah Macharia made a wonderful presentation of a preliminary report on the findings of the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010. The name of the Web site says it all: www.whomakesthenews.org.

Who makes the news? The answer to this question is a reminder that the media have a long way to go to reach the ideal of the mirror metaphor – to accurately reflect the world.

Consider this: Women make up 52% of the world’s population, but they are the subjects of only 24% of the world’s news coverage. “What’s wrong with this?” Macharia asked to make everyone think – really think – about how and why this is. She pointed out that if the media were truly a mirror of the world, the representation of women in the news would reflect their representation on this planet.

This figure of women as news subjects is up only three percentage points from 2005 (21%). In 2000 the figure was 18% and in 1995 17%. At this rate of progress (used in the most liberal sense of the word), it will be another 47.3 years – nearly another half of a century – until we achieve parity.

Someone in the audience, however, said a very heartening thing. Social media and the other powers of the Internet will surely help us speed up the rate of advancement on this front.

Participants all agreed that the first step in this endeavor is awareness; so take note, people, and make sure your circle of family, friends and acquaintances are also conscious of this barrier to the global advancement of women and the entire human race. Read the report. This is a problem of news media and also global society. We are all implicated, and we are all capable of contributing to social change.

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One thought on “Challenging the mirror metaphor

  1. “In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of divers people and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon.”

    (This next part makes me think of cleaning the mirror…)

    “However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.”

    -Baha’u’llah, Tablet to the Times

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